Neighbors Go Romantic: GILREATH + LINN

Only four farms separated the two in 1860 when the census was taken.  Since most of the Cassville, GA area was farmed, the distance could have been appreciable.  Martha Ann GILREATH was 7 years old at the time living with her farming family while Western Hardy LINN or “Wheat” as he was known, helped with the family farm as a 12 year old young man.

They lived through the Civil War [1861-1865],  she as a child and he a teenager.  Both of their father’s served in the Confederate army, namely, George Holton GILREATH and Alfred Martin LINN.   Although Western could possibly have fought, it appears that he did not.  In 1864 their town of Cassville was ravaged so badly by the Union Army that it was only known by that name in memory and history books afterwards.  But the dark night of war and destruction didn’t deter the sunrise of Martha and Western’s future.

1869 Map of Bartow County GA

Map of Bartow County GA in 1869

By 1872 Martha, age 19 had made quite an impression upon Western “Wheat”.  He began courting her via the written word [spelling and punctuation corrected].  Move over Mr. Darcy.

14 Sep 1872 Cassville GA

Dear Martha, 

Will you permit me to write.  You did not ___ it is time___  give me the liberty to write to you neither did you decidedly forbid it therefore I cannot flatter myself that hearing from me [‘you’ is scratched out] will give you anything like the pleasure which a letter from you would give me.  Yet I trust that you are not altogether indifferent towards me.  I write to you because the burning love which consumes my heart must find some expression in your presence.  Feeling an interest in you that it is impossible to describe inwards.    I have resorted to my pen and I hope I may not offend you in so doing.

Nothing short of the honest feeling of the human heart would ever prompt me to intrude myself upon the notice of a young lady under any circumstances and if I know my own heart it feels an interest in you that no effort of mine can shake off.

I wish you could appreciate this feeling and I am sure you would pity me if you did not receive me as a suitor.  The object of this note is to ask your permission to pay you friendly visits with a view to closer ties should my society prove agreeable.  I will not even request an answer in writing though if you are pleased to accord me one I shall of course feel highly flattered.

For me to attempt to tell you of my love would be all in vain for language could not express it nor paper contain it.  If you will allow me to say that your beauty can’t be surpassed by any.  I am obliged to acknowledge that I fell in love with you the first time that I ever had the pleasure of seeing you.

An old saying is that a faint heart never wins a fair maid.

I wish to pay my respects to you as in ____long if it will be consistent with you no other but that of hoping to become a more sincere and devoted friend of yours could ever made an impression on you- will please excuse bad writing and find me an answer before I leave and return my note too, if you please.

I remain your most sincere admirer,

W. H. Linn

A ‘devoted friend’ indeed.  They were married a month later on the 15th of Oct 1872 in Bartow County, GA.

Their union was fruitful with 11 of their 13 children living to adulthood. The children were:

Hardy J. (b1874), George Holder (b1876), Felton James (b1879), Hackett Elton (b1882), Lewis Boyd (b1884), Elon Estelle (b1886), Lillie Alma (b1888), Paul Lucus (b1890), Walter Dudley (b1894), Roy Lee, Max Augustus (b 1896).

Reviewing the circumstances and lives of Martha and Western it would be easy to assume they had fears about the future and bringing children into the world.  Well, they might have had those fears, we don’t really know,  but they lived as though they didn’t, raising their family the best they could until their deaths.

They preceded the thoughts of author/historian Howard Zinn who said,

“TO BE HOPEFUL in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places—and there are so many—where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

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